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Working Through Tradeoffs Is Key to Your Personal Growth and Success

6 tips for accepting tradeoffs and achieving your goals.

Key points

  • When we make an important decision, we often have to accept the tradeoffs that come along with it.
  • Tradeoffs typically comes with physical and/or emotional discomfort.
  • Accepting and working through tradeoffs contributes to our self-belief and builds our resilience.
Alysha Rosly/Unsplash
Source: Alysha Rosly/Unsplash

We have critical decisions we must make daily. We explore whether we want to leave or renegotiate a relationship, explore new career opportunities, and assess options for our health, among many other things.

Our mind innately resists and avoids physical and emotional discomfort. It presumes certain tasks will be too challenging or we won’t be able to effectively follow through on them. Our mind generously tries to protect us by prognosticating the worst so that sometimes we don’t even try, thus avoiding potential disappointment, frustration, and “inevitable” failure.

Accepting Tradeoffs

The key to personal growth is accepting tradeoffs, which typically comes with physical and/or emotional discomfort. There isn’t a task that’s important to us that isn’t inclusive of a tradeoff. A tradeoff can be painful in the short term but is well worth it in the long term. It’s the result of the challenge, adversity, and concerted effort that makes the accomplishment all the more anticipated and sweeter.

When we end a relationship to assert our value, we must accept the grief and disappointment that generally comes along with it. When we decide to embark on a new job or career path to find one more fulfilling, we have to accept the fear of uncertainty. Also, when we want to improve our health by integrating a regular routine of exercise, we need to accept the time commitment and at times physical discomfort because our body is moving in a way that it isn’t comfortable or familiar with.

Accepting and working through the tradeoffs are necessary for our success. Throughout the process and when we accomplish our goals, we can revel in our accomplishments. We get to personally witness that the time and effort was an integral part of the process that afforded us the ability to strengthen our resistance and resilience muscles. It also significantly contributed to building our self-confidence and self-belief. We are always proud of our accomplishments, especially when we put in a concerted effort to facilitate our growth. It most often takes challenge to see change.

Here are tips to effectively accept the tradeoff(s) and stick with the task at hand:

  1. When embarking on a task that’s important and meaningful to you, acknowledge what tradeoffs you will need to accept to see the task through (e.g., by earning a degree, you may need to accept the long hours of focused studying, re-prioritizing your social life, and being financially strapped).
  2. Once you acknowledge the tradeoffs, identify what thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations may get evoked that could potentially throw you off and be a deterrent and create resistance or ambivalence in following through with your task.
  3. Provide yourself with acknowledgment, validation, and self-compassion for your physical and emotional discomfort. Having a witness for your suffering often dissipates the pain because it reminds you that the discomfort is valid and temporary. It also recenters you to look beyond the pain and notice the moments of joy and hopefulness for your future.
  4. If it’s helpful, solicit support from a friend or family member who can offer encouragement during vulnerable moments.
  5. Check in with yourself periodically regarding how you’re coping with the tradeoff(s). If you’re noticing an escalation of self-doubt, frustration, or other feelings that could potentially thwart your progress, remind yourself of your values that are underpinning your goal. Realign with why you’ve committed to the task, how you’ve invested in yourself, and what the goal will afford you by contributing to you being your best self and living the life you want.
  6. Notice, acknowledge, and take the time to connect with your thoughts and feelings regarding your smaller accomplishments along the way. This will help to keep you focused, motivated, and connected with your purpose.

Getting Through Negative Emotions

Most people lack follow-through because of wanting and expecting the process to be seamless and lacking acceptance over their tradeoffs. The mixed or ambivalent feelings can often be misconstrued as sentiments such as “This is not for me”; “I can’t accomplish this”; or “I don’t want this as badly as I thought after all.”

Those can be false interpretations of our negative emotions. Just because we’re in discomfort, are wavering between feelings, or can’t connect with our inevitable success or more hopeful future doesn’t necessarily mean that we should give up, call it quits, or delay the process.

It is more important that the goal aligns with our values and builds on our self-belief, self-confidence, and self-compassion rather than expecting that it will facilitate positive thoughts and feelings and sustained enthusiasm. That often doesn’t naturally or instantaneously get evoked, especially if the investment is also inclusive of negative consequences and/or you innately tend to be hard on yourself or are a negative or anxious thinker.

Make the effort to be in the present moment. Be open and curious to gain more self-awareness about your reactions to challenge and change and transform your mindset regarding how you see and experience your tradeoff.

Accepting and working through your tradeoff is a gateway to your success; it helps to integrate the idea that if I could get through this, I can get through anything, thus building on your resilience and compelling you toward future goals because of strengthening your self-belief.

Maya Angelou eloquently stated, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Going through adversity and enduring our tradeoffs makes us even more wonderful than we already are. It makes us braver, stronger, and undefeatable.

Here is a Relaxing Your Body Guided Meditation led by me to help you work through any discomfort that gets evoked.

More from Michelle P. Maidenberg Ph.D., MPH, LCSW-R, CGP
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